The training skills of Stephen McKee were underlined dramatically to New Zealand thoroughbred racing following Mufhasa's effortless victory in the $1 million Telegraph Handicap at
Ardmore-based McKee has done an incredible job getting Mufhasa ready for the dramatic Group One 1200m feature.
The next target for Mufhasa could be the A$2 million Doncaster Handicap (1600m) at Randwick in Sydney on April 18, but McKee said they would chill out over the weekend before making any decision. The A$1 million Stradbroke Handicap (1600m) in
Brisbane in winter was also possible.
During Cup Week in Christchurch Mufhasa was an effortless winner of the Coupland's Mile (1600m) and in his next start was a gritty fifth in the Railway Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1.
Mufhasa was handled superbly by pin-up jockey Sam Spratt who had the 4-year-old nicely positioned in second and third spot throughout the early stages of the feature.
When Spratt asked the son of Pentire to sprint he quickly accelerated away from the field to score comfortably from a solid closing Atapi and Ruud Van Slaats.
The victory was also a very satisfying personal moment for Spratt as her riding career was nearly ended in 2003 at Trentham when she sustained horrific injuries after her mount, Dragon Tiger, fell.
A lot of young athletes would have retired from their sport after such serious injuries but not Spratt who has an incredible desire to compete.
Racehorses run for Spratt who is the leading jockey in New Zealand this season. She has been a revelation with the betting public who appreciate her favoured riding style of sitting on the speed.
Mufhasa has been a consistent performer for McKee scoring 10 wins and three minor placings from 20 starts.
By the Rich Hill Farms-based stallion Pentire there is little doubt Mufhasa will easily handle the step up to weight-for-age middle distance racing next season.
McKee was his usual modest self after the victory preferring to allow Spratt to gain a lot of the recognition for an outstanding day at the office as a professional horse trainer.
"I couldn't be happier with the result but it's always easy when you can get a few things go your way during the race. Sam got him into a winning position right at the start when we got nice and handy to the speed," said McKee.
"He's an easy horse to train as he's a very genuine racehorse and he's only finished further back than fourth on four occasions from 20 starts."
NEW ZEALAND Derby pre-post punters should have taken a lot of interest from the winning performance from one-win 3-year-old Court Ruler in the $100,000 (Group Three) Trentham Stakes.
Court Ruler, by resident Cambridge Stud stallion Viking Ruler, only had 52kg in the weight-for-age feature but the manner in which he slugged it out with older, more experienced rivals over the closing 100m is worth noting heading into March's New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie.
Court Ruler is trained at New Plymouth by the astute John Wheeler and has 2400m and Group One glory written all over him.
Willy Smith caught the eye with a powerful late sprint to finish fourth.
WHENEVER MARK WALKER lines up a 2-year-old on raceday - punters should treat each runner with respect - as everyone found out after the running of the $100,000 Challenge Stakes.
The Matamata-based trainer is a master at peaking stable runners for premier day race meetings, particularly the juveniles.
Walker produced the striking chestnut King's Ransom to race wide and effortlessly overpower a quality field in the Group Three feature.
Jockey Troy Harris never panicked, relaxing the long-striding first-crop son of former crack sprinter-miler King's Chapel. Ranging wide on the track this combination unleashed a mouth-watering sprint in the home stretch.
The addition of winkers obviously helped the gelding focus more on his job. In his last start at Ellerslie, King's Ransom was a fast-closing third behind stablemate Corsage after taking an eternity to wind up and sprint.
The victory clinched a starting berth in next Sunday's $1 million 2009 Karaka Million 2-year-old at Ellerslie.
The $75,000 graduate of the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sales at Karaka has hit peak form at the right time of the year.
SHANZERO looked hugely promising when she burst to the front through a gap one out from the rails to win the Group Three Wellington Stakes (1600m) for 3-year-olds.
The daughter of Danzero and a Marauding mare, Shanzero scored by a long head from outsider Six Star and The Meista.
Ridden by Leith Innes and trained by Richard Collett at Pukekohe, she was backed into favouritism on the strength of two wins and a second from her four previous starts.